Numerous Division I athletic departments have declared expectations that their football stadiums will be packed to capacity this fall, but much can happen in the intervening months. In fact, health experts admitted this week that it's unlikely the United States will ever achieve herd immunity from the coronavirus behind COVID-19.
But hopes of near normalcy reign nonetheless.
Penn State is one school that appears to be hedging its bets in terms of Beaver Stadium capacity this season, with its athletic department modeling options in case distancing requirements remain in place in Pennsylvania.
As reported by Sports Illustrated, a recent letter from athletic director Sandy Barbour to season-ticket holders expresses that the program is "hopeful" it can fill the stadium for football games in 2021, beginning with the Sept. 11 home-opener against Ball State. Pennsylvania rules currently permit outdoor events to be held at 50 percent of venue capacity, though 6-foot distancing must be observed.
According to Barbour's email, a continued distancing requirement would limit Penn State to hosting about 20,000 fans at Beaver Stadium, SI reported. The athletic department has worked with Ticketmaster and architectural firm Populous to devise pod-seating options to comply.
"We continue to plan for a full stadium scenario throughout the 2021 season, while monitoring local, state and national guidelines as we understand there may be prevailing health and safety guidelines that could affect crowd sizes," Barbour's letter said.
The Big Ten has said it will allow universities to set their own attendance limits based on state and local guidelines. Penn State has not announced whether fans will need to be vaccinated in order to attend home sporting events, but it will join other conference schools in converting to digital tickets for the 2021 season.